‘Ghosts’ receives standing ovation, set creates haunted setting for performers

Oct. 26, 2015

Eleanor Sturt
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“Ghosts” is a gripping play, as it experiments with familial relations, religious judgment, deathly illnesses and life’s mistakes coming back to haunt.

The name “Ghosts” does not infer the dead haunting, but rather old beliefs and conventions clinging to the living, reminding them of a sinful past.

“Ghosts” is a Norwegian play written by Henrik Ibsen in 1881. It was banned from British stages for two decades due to its subject matter revolving around syphilis. Thanks to penicillin, this disease is no longer a threat in the developed world, making this aspect less relevant to modern audiences.

The story revolves around six characters, if we include the late Mr. Alving. We see Mrs. Alving (Sharon Andrews) and Pastor Manders (Dan Mason) discussing the return of her son.

We hear that her son, Oswald (Christian O’Shaughnessy) has recently returned from Paris where he has been living an artist’s life.

We see that Regina Engstrand, played by UCCS graduate Carmen Vreeman Shedd, has found a certain liking for the young Alving and, against her drunken father’s wishes (Tom Paradise) is staying to serve the family in hopes of a courtship.

Throughout the play, the audience is let in on different scandals, all due to the late Mr. Alving. There is a constant reminder of the past affecting the present, whether it be due to Mr. Alving or the individual choices of characters.

Manders constantly weighs the consequences of what events happened in the past, what is occurring and what may happen in the foreseeable future.

Mason played Manders with an urgent sincerity, making the overall outcome of the play more chilling.

Another chilling aspect of the production is the set’s color scheme. All of the colors were cold, staying within the realms of grays, blues, purples and blacks, adding a dark simplicity to the already unsettling set.

With transparent curtains revealing a small dining room in the background, the foreground is a table with two chairs and an armchair. The openness of the set only adds to the harsh cold of the room.

The set is aided by a slight fog, floating in and out of the lights. The fog is a subtle detail as is the changing lighting of the mountain backdrop, but these components all contributed to the ominous reminiscent mood of the play.

The show had its hiccups, with a few lines stumbled over and actors cut off or repeated, but these elements were not prominent enough to distract from the essence of the play.

Andrews’ character, Mrs. Alving, occasionally showed a motherly love, but her performance changed from concern to pleasure and from sincerity to dishonesty so flippantly, it distracted the audience from the vital relationship between Mrs. Alving and her son, Oswald.

This inconsistency did not take from the final moments of the play, which left the audience breathless, and standing in applause.

The show put a certain uneasiness in the audience, leaving the viewer anxious at the end, with no complete thought or theme to cling to as the actors came out for their bows.

As the actors exit, all that is left is an empty stage, an unsettling energy and ‘ghosts’ in the air.